Ethics complaint targets Buddy Carter's campaign account transfers

An ethics complaint targeting U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter claims he and several Republican state legislators wrongly accepted contributions to evade bans on transferring money between state and federal campaign accounts.

The complaint, filed with the Federal Election Commission and sent to FBI’s public corruption unit, targets a state Senate campaign account that Carter kept active after he announced he was running for a Savannah-based U.S. House seat.

It contends he shifted thousands of dollars from that state account to Georgia state lawmakers, or to a campaign consultant, who made contributions –several times in the same amount - to Carter’s federal campaign committee.

The two-term Republican dismissed the complaint in a statement.

"This appears to be a partisan political stunt from a local Democratic activist," Carter said. "Look no further than the media receiving this before the ink even dried on the signature."

The complaint, filed by local resident Lisa Ring, documents several donations from state lawmakers. Among them were contributions from state Sen. Jeff Mullis, U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk and state Rep. Ron Stephens.

Here’s an example of one of the transfers: Mullis contributed $500 to Carter’s federal committee in July 2013. In April 2014, Carter’s state committee contributed $1,000 to Mullis’ campaign committee. Days later, Mullis contributed an additional $500 to Carter’s federal account.

Another highlighted a June 2013 contribution from Stephens of $2,600 to Carter’s federal campaign. About 18 months later, Carter’s state committee donated $1,000 to Stephens’ reelection campaign.

Stephens said there is “zero connection” between the transfers.

“I gave him a contribution because I supported him,” said Stephens, a Savannah Republican. “I’m writing him a check because I support him. And he wrote me a check because he supported me. There was no wrongdoing.”

Mullis and Loudermilk did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The complaint also seeks a probe of more than $26,000 in “questionable expenditures” from Carter’s state account on advertising and political consulting after Carter said he was running for the U.S. House seat.

“Rep. Carter’s apparent conduit contribution scheme undermines the anti-corruption objectives” of federal campaign contribution limits, Ring wrote in requesting a “full investigation” of the matter.

Carter has come under scrutiny from government watchdog groups in recent months for co-sponsoring legislation that could benefit his family’s pharmacy business.

And he faced questions about other transfers from his Georgia Senate account to his congressional campaigns. His congressional campaign refunded the money to his state campaign after he was contacted by the AJC about it.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.